When divorce is inevitable, child custody matters will be top of mind. You and your soon-to-be ex will want to devise a good parenting plan.

Give this your best effort because it will become a court order once each of you signs it, the judge signs it and the document is filed with the court.

Basic needs

The parenting plan, sometimes called the “custody and visitation agreement,” should address your child’s needs, such as a healthy diet, proper medical care, sufficient rest and, of course, plenty of love, protection and guidance. Consider your child’s age, abilities and personality; you know what his or her needs will be better than anyone.

Contact

Your parenting plan should also serve as a go-to information center. Be sure you include agreement on certain subjects:

  • Both parents can call or email the child
  • Both parents have the right to look at the child’s school and health records
  • Both parents can receive information about the child
  • Each parent should have the other’s address, phone number and other contact information

Physical and legal custody

The plan should address physical custody, which means where your child will live and spend time. Information should include where he or she will be during the week, as well as on weekends, and with whom he or she will spend holidays and summer vacation. The plan should also specify legal custody, meaning which parent will have the responsibility of making important decisions regarding such things as schooling, religion, and medical and dental care.

Court considerations

A family law attorney will tell you that when you bring your parenting plan before the court, the first consideration will always be the best interests of your child. The judge will try to determine which parent seems more likely to initiate and encourage frequent visits for the child to have with the other parent. The judge will also review family history and whether there has been any drug use or domestic violence. In the end, the court will approve a plan that is fair and well-thought-out and focuses on the child’s welfare and best opportunities for a happy, well-adjusted life going forward.